Higher education institutions often use quantitative, outcome-based metrics to define student success. These measurements, which are reported to and used by government, regulatory, and accrediting agencies, are influential for decision-making, benchmarking, ranking, and most importantly, funding. However, these traditional outcome metrics provide a limited view of the goals, challenges, and experiences of college students, especially those who attend community colleges.

Employing additional, holistic metricssuch as those that focus on basic needs, feelings of engagement and belonging, and general well-beingcan help institutions better understand and meet the needs of these “post-traditional” students, particularly during a year when many students are struggling and equity gaps have only widened due to the pandemic. Unlike traditional metrics, however, holistic metrics of student success are less often defined, standardized, or used.

Today, we release the first report in a series on how metrics of student success are currently prioritized, defined, quantified, and used in the community college sector. The report also reviews holistic student needs and the common metrics associated with them, including basic needs like food and housing, child care, and technology access. Administratorsprovosts and institutional research leaders in particularcan use this report to make evidence-informed decisions regarding their own data collection processes. And, third-party research organizations that have shaped these data collection processes can consult the report to recognize and address shortcomings in current protocols.

Next month, we will be disseminating a national survey to community college provosts focused on their willingness to incorporate a broader set of holistic metrics into their data collection processes and the barriers that exist for doing so. We look forward to sharing more on these results in 2021.